Friday, July 6, 2012

artificial intelligence

Years ago, in 1965 to be precise, I saw an early indicator of our growing dependence on technology instead of human judgment. I was in the British Museum, looking at the Elgin Marbles, the statues taken from the Parthenon. An American woman was there with her son of 7 or 8, each wearing the tape player with commentary on the exhibits. "I can't go until my machine tells me to," she said, "but if your machine tells you to go, then go."

Later on, I felt uncomfortable when my own kids used calculators to do math homework, instead of doing multiplication and division by hand [and brain].

Now I read about the confusion in the cockpit of the Air France plane that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009. Indicators were contradictory; some were malfunctioning; the pilots didn't realize that the plane was stalling. But the saddest comment came from an American aviation safety expert, who said, “We are seeing a situation where we have pilots that can’t understand what the airplane is doing unless a computer interprets it for them. This isn’t a problem that is unique to Airbus or unique to Air France. It’s a new training challenge that the whole industry has to face.”

The same issue confronts our military robotic systems, as Peter W. Singer has warned. If we take humans "out of the loop," we risk enormous unintended consequences. whatever we may gain in speed.

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